Last week in El Paso, Texas at the El Camino Hotel, a few blocks from the border of Mexico, MDAA had the honor to pay tribute to our country’s leading Democrat on Missile Defense, the Honorable Representative from the 16th district in Texas, Mr. Silvestre Reyes. How symbolic that our congressional representative from one of America’s primary international thorough ways and one of this country’s poorest districts has led the fight for development and deployment of missile defense.
Mr. Reyes spent over 20 years on the Border Patrol prior to being elected as the first Hispanic in Congress from this district. Mr. Reyes has led legislation and political support for Missile Defense since he began in 1996 and continues today as the ranking minority leader in the House Armed Service Committee’s subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
He is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is knowledgeable about the threat posed by terrorists and rogue nations. This combined with his Border Patrol experience offers a unique perspective on asymmetrical threats.
Congressman Reyes has focused on protection of troops and allies from ballistic missile attack through two administrations and several attempts to stop funding and missile defense programs. In 1998, under the Clinton Administration, Secretary of Defense William Cohen had requested to eliminate the THAAD program and Mr. Reyes along with his Democratic colleagues Rep Murtha (PA) and Rep Cramer (AL) convinced the Secretary to continue with the development of the program.
This summer, THAAD intercepted a single stage missile at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico is scheduled to be deployed in 2008 to defend large areas and begin protecting tens of thousands of lives.
In 2000, under the Bush Administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had requested taking the majority of funds directed to Missile Defense away from short and medium range missile defense systems.
Mr. Reyes stepped up along side his Republican colleagues Rep Weldon (R-Pa.) and Rep Everett (R-AL) and changed the Department of Defense’s allocation to ensure continued support of both the Patriot and THAAD systems. The Honorable Reyes continues to be a fierce advocate of missile defense, and said it best when he concluded to our audience in El Paso “missile defense is about protecting the lives of my grandchildren and their generation.”
Today, the United States has deployed 52 Patriot Batteries, each battery having 4 launchers and 8 missiles per launcher. These 52 effective missile defense systems which proved their value by engaging and destroying 9 SCUD missiles in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom saving thousands of lives.
The Patriot 3 systems have been deployed to South Korea and Germany where they are available to be transported by airlift anywhere in the world if needed. Additionally, countries such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Kuwait, and Germany have their own Patriot battery’s for their own protection.
The picture given to Representative Silvestre Reyes with the Patriot 3 and THAAD systems flanking his portrait is a symbolic tribute to those critical systems that would not be in existence today without his leadership.
In recognition of Congressman Silvestre Reyes’ contributions to missile defense of the United States of America. Presented on behalf of a grateful nation.